Addiction of any kind does not solely cause turmoil to the addicted, it strains all types of relationships–partner, family, friends, colleagues–and can even bring them to an end. Instinctively, we want to help those we care about, after all, it is tough to witness someone battling their addiction while hurting themselves and people in the process. To do so, we must take on a conscious role so that we can be supportive rather than that of a militant or enabler.
Addiction is a compulsive disorder that affects the brain and body. It is a physical and psychological inability to cease engaging in impulsive behavior. Addictions can be to substances; anxiety relieving activities like gambling, shopping or sex or even eating or overworking. People suffering from addictions lose a sense of control and have a preoccupation with their addiction, regardless of the negative consequences that can come with it. This affects the brain’s reward system and the ability to regulate emotions without the addictive substance or behavior. When someone is suffering from any addiction, they are dependent on the activity to manage emotions and cope with life. Drug or Alcohol addictions as well as process addictions like alcohol, gambling, sex, shopping or eating often have their roots in trauma. Drug and alcohol make up a great portion of addictions as one in seven people age twelve and older have a substance abuse problem.
How to Show Support
It takes more than self-discipline to end any type of addiction–an addicted person needs a lot of support. However, your loved one may be reluctant to discuss their addiction out of embarrassment or shame. And they may be worried that getting help can sabotage their employment status, relationships or self image. Ultimately they will need to take the step toward wanting change, but there are ways that you can help them get there and be supportive along their journey.
Talk it Out
A person suffering from an addiction may not be able to recognize that they have a problem. Check in with your loved one to see if they are aware that their behavioral patterns are toxic. Do it in a way that shows empathy and concern rather than judgment and criticism. Give them uninterrupted space to let you know how they feel in the present moment, and about their addiction or plan for recovery. After you have actively listened, you can also share how you have been personally affected by their addiction, using compassionate language. You will have to establish trust to effectively have vulnerable conversations about addiction.
Once your loved one has recognized their problem and is ready to begin the journey of recovery, offer to help them find resources that are the right fit. Take initiative and do research on treatment centers, insurance coverage, and outpatient programs. Make sure to include them during the process so that they do not feel they are being controlled by you. Offer to accompany them to their consultation or appointments if they feel that would be helpful. If they invite you to a session, go with an open mind and heart. Refrain from blaming them or becoming defensive if they say something uncomfortable about you–they need the freedom to express their thoughts and feelings in a safe place.
It is also a good idea to find a therapist for yourself. The best thing you can do to help your loved one is to take care of your own mental health. Having a loved one with addiction takes a toll and may cause you to experience anger, anxiety, or hopelessness. A therapist can help you find ways to cope with your feelings and stress and can help you to learn to not take the addiction personally.
To learn how to get help for addiction in Sherman Oaks, call Trauma and Beyond Center ® at (818) 651-0725.